Is "exploding bridge deck truthers" really a thing? Apparently so.

In a famous scene because all scenes in Star Wars are famous scenes, when the Empire is searching for the Millennium Falcon as it escapes Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back we see Vader in a conference call with various ship captains: unfortunately in an effects shot we see an asteroid strike the bridge deck on one of the Star Destroyers, and cut to the conference where one of the captains looks to the side and then raises his hands in a defensive posture before his signal winks out.

It's pretty obvious what the visual gag here was: the bridge was destroyed, the captain killed, and we saw his final moments in the hologram videochat.

But is that what really happened?

Okay admittedly none of it really happened because Star Wars, unlike Star Trek, is fictional.

However, remarkably, the opposition insists that the ship was neither destroyed, nor even damaged appreciably.

The argument hinges on the fact that when you watch a movie you typically watch scenes play out chronologically: which is to say that, in Gone With the Wind, in an early scene Scarlett slaps Ashley because he's going to marry his cousin. Later on in the movie, a Confederate soldier named Will tells Scarlett that her estate taxes are about to be increased to bankrupt her, causing her to travel to Atlanta. If you watch the movie from beginning to end you see Scarlett slap Ashley, and then later in time you watch Will give Scarlett the bad news. In the story, the slap occurs in the spring of 1861, before the U.S. Civil War begins. Will speaks with Scarlett after the Civil War, likely in the summer of 1866 (Scarlett learns in the ruins of Atlanta about a new organization called the Ku Klux Klan, which formed on Christmas Eve of 1865, but Atlanta has not been rebuilt which happened relatively quickly during the 1866-1868 period). Regardless, in the character chronology the slap occurs before the news, and that's the same order we watched it in.

Note that this isn't always how it works: in Reservoir Dogs for example the famous opening scene takes place at a diner, where the characters discuss their upcoming heist (and the song "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia" which isn't actually about the Civil War burning of Atlanta). The next scene indeed takes place after the heist: which is to say the characters would agree with you the viewer that Scene 1 happens before Scene 2. However, later in the film we watch as Mr. Orange meets another man at a diner to discuss Orange's successful infiltration of a gang. That scene takes place before the first diner scene, even though that's not the order we watched it in.

So bringing us back to The Empire Strikes Back, the scene of the asteroid hitting the Star Destroyer happens (seconds) before we watch the captain's hologram vanish.

There's also the argument that, because the captain is not already dead by the time we cut to the Executor bridge and Vader's holoconference, then the bridge of the destroyed ISD must've survived for some amount of time.  

From the perspective of your average movie-goer, the captain's apparent demise was just a rewind of a few seconds.  But, for the purpose of debating (where the films are documentary-style, linear footage), this cannot be.  And so, they claim, his survival for a few more seconds must indicate that the tower was not obliterated.

So is The Empire Strikes Back a "linearly edited documentary-style" film? Uh, no, not really. Even ignoring Lucas' well-publicized support for David Lynch, while the scenes all generally progress alongside each other, the chronology isn't strictly followed during Luke's training and the Falcon's challenges in the asteroid field and Cloud City. It's logical to assume that in several scenes where we see Luke and Yoda training, the scenes in the asteroid belt we cut to are not strictly in the timeline: the Falcon's trip from the Hoth system to Cloud City takes up most of the time, but nothing of consequence happens. The timelines split after the Hoth battle and essentially reunite when Vader says "monitor Skywalker and allow him to land".

More specifically, since obviously we can't keep quick-cutting between the asteroids and the conference call (Zack Synder not being invented yet), it's clear that the two scenes are supposed to be connected. Yet somehow, people don't understand this. If you think this post is way too long and banal to cover this topic, the article linked above makes it clear that I'm being clear and concise. (I won't include the various photos in my quote below)

Assorted claims have been made regarding this glow region in the aftermath frames.  For instance, if you draw lines near it you can make shapes that are similar to the shape of the Star Destroyer's neck area, as with these:

However, the flaw in such maneuvers is that the tower could not have been at either location.  In the below, I have overlaid the Star Destroyer from the impact frame (offset upward a bit for ease of reference, and also leaving a little bit of the glow from behind the neck to make the neck more apparent) onto the final frame, lining them up based on the remaining Star Destroyer hull details:

Note well that there is a gap between the area where some would like to draw lines and the area where the neck of the Star Destroyer would actually be.  If the dark area is not the shadow of the undamaged neck of the Star Destroyer, then one cannot claim that the shadow proves the bridge tower and its neck were undamaged.

Furthermore, note where the bridge tower is in the overlay above, and note where the bridge globes are.

They don't exist in the non-overlaid frame:

Indeed, let's take a closer, brightened look:

Up where those two sparks are, side-by-side in front of the Executor's lateral trench area, we ought to be seeing the portside globe of the ISD's bridge tower.  We do not.  

To the left of the dust cloud, we ought to be seeing the starboard half of the ISD's bridge tower.  We do not.

(Some have claimed that it is merely obscured by dust, but that is absurd . . . the main hull just to the left of the dustcloud is clearly visible, as are the hull and even the window lights of the Executor above!)

Yes, agreed: that's the absurd part... but hey, while I have you on the line...

Bonus Darth Vader in the asteroid belt: Vader insists that the Millennium Falcon be found, and was willing to sacrifice millions of metric tons of Star Destroyer in order to accomplish this goal.

VADER: No, Captain, they're alive.  I want every ship available to sweep the asteroid field until they are found.

However, seconds after the dead-captain conference call ends Vader is told that the Emperor (Clive Revill) wishes to speak with him. What's the next thing Vader decides?

VADER: Move the ship out of the asteroid field so that we can send a clear transmission.

The coward picks the absolute flimsiest of excuses to get his ship out of that dangerous asteroid field as quickly as humanly possible. Yes, that's right Anakin: very very important to get your own ass out of the dangerous situation you put your underlings in...otherwise this transmission wouldn't be clear enough!